How to Clean the Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are convenient and found in many of our kitchens. To keep them running properly and lasting a long time, they require a daily care to stay clean and odor free.

Daily Cleaning

Daily maintenance will help keep your garbage disposal running well and reduce the need for frequent deep cleanings.

You Will Need:

  • Hot water
  • Dish detergent
  • Small scrub brush

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Each day fill your sink and garbage disposal with hot water (as hot as you can stand) adding a small amount of dish detergent (enough to make some suds).
  2. Turn on the garbage disposal and let the water flush through. The hot water and detergent should loosen and remove most debris left in the disposal.
  3. Remove the drain or screen and scrub away any dirt and grime using the small scrub brush.
  4. Replace the drain or screen.

Periodic Deep Cleanings

Deep cleanings offer a great chance to remove any build-up and sharpen the blades/grinders. The frequency of deep cleanings will depend on how heavily your disposal is used and how well it is cleaned each day. Typically, deep cleanings are needed every 1-3 weeks.

You Will Need:

  • Ice cubes
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Large pot
  • Water
  • Old toothbrush

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Begin by flushing away any food that may be in your garbage disposal.
  2. Next, run a couple of ice cubes through to loosen food that may be stuck to the blades or grinders. This is also believed to sharpen the blades.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into the garbage disposal.
  4. Slowly add 1 cup of vinegar to the baking soda. Be prepared for it to fizzle and bubble as it expands. (Remember those erupting volcano projects in grade school? – same idea) You will want to insert the cover of both your garbage disposal as well as the drain in the second sink if applicable.
  5. Let this mixture set for about 10 minutes.
  6. While it is soaking, fill the large pot with water and bring it to a boil.
  7. When the water is boiling, remove the covers to the sink and garbage disposal.
  8. Carefully pour the boiling water into the garbage disposal and turn it on to flush away the loosened debris.
  9. Remove the splash guard (the black rubber cover) if possible and clean it thoroughly. Use the old toothbrush to scrub off any build-up that tends to accumulate on the underside.
  10. If you are unable to remove the splash guard, lift each flap and scrub underneath with the old toothbrush as good as you can. This is a key location for build-up that causes odor, so cleaning it well is essential.
  11. Return the splash guard to its original location.
  12. If you’d like a fresh smell in your kitchen, run a few citrus peels through the disposal. You can also place a few drops of scented oil in the disposal and let it set for a few hours before rinsing away.

Removing Odors

Odors are such a common problem with garbage disposals that there are numerous methods to remove them. These are most effective after you have cleaned the debris causing the odor from your disposal. Otherwise, you just have the smells from these remedies on top of the previous odors. Here are a couple of the more popular fixes.

  1. Lemon/Limes – Place a couple halves of lemons or limes in the garbage disposal and process them through. The acid from the citrus will remove the odor and leave your disposal smelling much fresher.
  2. Baking Soda – Baking soda is well known for its odor absorbency and can be added to other items being processed through the disposal to aid in odor removal.
  3. Vinegar Ice – Fill an ice cube tray with vinegar and freeze. Place a couple of ice cubes in the disposal and process with cold water. Be sure to label the remaining cubes or someone may get a surprise in their beverage!
  4. Ice/Salt – Place some ice in the garbage disposal and sprinkle with rock salt or 1 cup of vinegar. Process the ice through the disposal with plenty of cold water.
  5. Bleach – Mix 1 tablespoon bleach with 1 gallon of water. Pour in the disposal and let set for 10 minutes. Turn on the disposal and process thoroughly with cold water.

Removing Blockages

Though you are always careful when using your disposal, unwanted objects seem to make their way in. Whether it’s a utensil, dish, or other object, use great caution when removing blockages from your disposal.

You Will Need:

Steps to Take:

  1. Begin by turning off the fuse/electricity to the garbage disposal.
  2. Double check that it will NOT turn on.
  3. Pull back the splash guard (remove it if possible) and use the flashlight to see what object has fallen in.
  4. Using the tongs or pliers, carefully extract the object. Be careful not to damage the blades or grinders.
  5. As a last resort, use your hands to find the object and remove it. ALWAYS make sure the power to the disposal is off prior to doing this to prevent any accidents.
  6. Once the object is removed, replace the splash guard and reinstate the power.

Additional Tips and Advice:

  • Do not leave food in the garbage disposal overnight.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals as they may be damaging to the disposal.


  1. Debbie says:

    A bottle brush works great for this.

  2. Mary says:

    Every time my ice maker needs to be emptied because the bottom ice is sticking, I dump it in the sink. I then drizzle dish soap around the top of the ice and pour some household bleach on top of that. Then run cold water (or warm if needed) while pushing the ice down the disposal and running. It cleans it sparkling clean and takes away all odors.

  3. Borax says:

    An easier way to clean your garbage disposal – Every time you use your dishwasher, wait for the rinse cycle. The water should discharge into the garbage disposal. When you hear the water discharging, just turn on the garbage disposal – Voila! It’s now clean. You just killed two birds with one stone.

  4. Pat says:

    We use a lot of Mexican limes and what is left, I rub in the sink. Also use an old dish brush after it has been rubbed with limes. Put limes in the disposal, turn on, then rinse. Take the brush and baking soda or dish washing soap and clean under the rubber if it can not be removed. The lime takes away water spots too, plus smells good!

  5. Mark M. says:

    There is a brush that is made especially for cleaning kitchen sink garbage disposals. I found mine at an Ace Hardware near me, priced at $5.99. It looks like an over-sized heavy-duty bottle brush.

    You may be able to find one at Lowe’s or Home Depot, but I have not seen any in any of those stores in my area. Ace carries some things that the others do not.

  6. Coco says:

    Don’t forget to throw eggshells in, which helps keep blades sharp. Vinegar, lemon, or baking soda work well with cleansing/deodorizing.

  7. Michelle says:

    My husband is a plumber, so I get the 411 on disposals. Do NOT put egg shells in your disposal; they gum everything up. A disposal is not used for a place to put all your leftover food. It is designed for the leftover food AFTER you have scraped the plate in the garbage. Ice and lemons are good though.

  8. April says:

    My garbage disposal has a bad smell and won’t work when I hit the switch or the reset button. It just makes a sound. I have never had a garbage disposal, so I guess I need to learn a few things the not-so-easy way. What needs to be done without calling a plumber?

  9. Tim says:

    One trick that I learned when I was a plumber: Turn on the disposal, run cold water, then throw some bits of glass inside – you’ll be amazed at how quickly it turns it into fine particles of sand and washes down the drain. During this process, it deep-cleans all the fine and course groves in the outer cylinder cutting surfaces, as well as cleans under and around the the centrifugal arms. Of course, wear eye protection and gloves for safety. In 30 years of using this method, I’ve never had an incident. I use an old pop bottle or beer bottle; remove any paper or plastic labels, then place the bottle in a thick paper bag and hit it lightly with a hammer to break the bottle into three or four larger pieces.

  10. Frank says:

    Need HELP! Garbage disposal is ‘jammed’ with food particles that have dried into a ‘concrete or lime deposit’ approx. 3-inches thick. Have used boiling water to ‘melt’ any grease, etc…drain cleaner (water drains)!
    Any way to break-up/clean the build-up around the blades without ‘dropping’ the unit from under the sink?

Leave a Comment